Universtiy of Miami Miller School of Medicine Graduate Studies

Faculty Profiles: NEU

Tasuku Akiyama, PhD

Assistant Professor, Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery

Our research focuses on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of itch and pain. Our laboratory develops and uses multiple mouse models of chronic itch, including atopic dermatitis, psoriatic itch, and post-burn itch.  Additionally, our team employs various in vitro and in vivo research approaches, including genetic tools, optogenetics, calcium imaging, neuronal tracing, molecular expression profiling, electrophysiology, and multiple behavioral assessments in mice.

Coleen Atkins, PhD

Associate Professor, Neurological Surgery
Graduate Program Director, Neuroscience

The long-term research objectives of Dr. Atkins’ laboratory are to determine how the cellular signaling mechanisms that underlie learning and memory become dysfunctional after traumatic brain injury and to develop therapeutics for survivors of brain trauma to improve cognitive function.

Nagi Ayad, PhD

Associate Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Our research focuses on cell cycle transitions in the developing nervous system. Our multi-disciplinary approach utilizes whole genome siRNA, cDNA, and small molecule cell-based screens. The latter target kinases, ubiquitin ligases, and epigenetic modulators to design therapies for cancer and neurological diseases.

Ellen Barrett, PhD

Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

Our laboratory studies ways to preserve neuromuscular structure and function in the SOD1G93A mouse model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We infuse candidate protective agents into one hind-limb and compare neuromuscular structure and function in infused vs. non-infused limbs.

John Barrett, PhD

Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

Our laboratory studies how mammalian central neurons respond to stress. One project seeks mechanisms underlying the complementary neuroprotective effects of neurotrophins (e.g. NGF, BDNF) and bone morphogenetic proteins (e.g. BMP7) during hypoglycemic stress in septal cholinergic neurons. Another project studies neuronal responses to hyperthermia, exacerbating damage by hypoglycemia and ischemia.

Antonio Barrientos, PhD

Professor, Neurology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

The main research interest of our lab is on the basic mechanisms that govern the biogenesis of mitochondrial protein complexes in health, disease and aging. We are most specifically interested in the assembly and function of the mitochondrial translation machinery and of the mitochondrial respiratory chain and oxidative phosphorylation system components, involved in biological energy transduction.

Michael Benatar, MD, PhD

Professor, Neurology

Dr. Benatar directs an active clinical and translational research program focused on biomarker and therapy development for ALS and myasthenia gravis. Areas of particular interest include deep phenotyping, genotype-phenotype associations, neuroimaging, neurophysiology, and clinical trials.

Eleonore Beurel, PhD

Assistant Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

We study neuroinflammation in depressive disorders, focusing specifically on Glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK3). Findings suggest that the pro-inflammatory action of GSK3may contribute to its promotion of mood disorders, providing a potential therapeutic target.

Sanjoy Bhattacharya, PhD

Professor, Ophthalmology

Neuroproteomics, posttranslational modification of diminution, local protein synthesis in neuronal dendrites.

Laura Bianchi, PhD

Laura Bianchi, PhD

Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

Employing the powerful model organism, C. elegans, my laboratory is interested in the role of DEG/ENaC ion channels in sensory perception and neurodegeneration. These voltage- independent Na+ channels function as trimers in an extraordinary range of biological processes including several senses, transepithelial transport, and have been linked to human diseases.

John Bixby, PhD

Vice Provost
Professor, Molecular & Cellular Pharmacology

Our lab is interested in the signaling mechanisms underlying axonal regeneration in the central nervous system. We are also working on an axonal regeneration knowledge base that can allow automated queries by neuroscientists.

Roberta Brambilla, PhD

Assistant Professor, Neurological Surgery

The main focus of our research is understanding the role of neuroinflammation in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative disorders (e.g., multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury), with a specific interest in the contribution of glial cells. We combine genetic and pharmacological approaches in vivo, using a variety of conditional knockout mouse lines for ablation of target genes in select glial and immune cell populations.

Helen Bramlett, PhD

Professor, Neurological Surgery

The focus of my laboratory is investigating pathomechanisms of CNS injury and therapeutic interventions.  Current research is elucidating mechanisms of progressive brain injury and posttraumatic epilepsy.  In addition, combination approaches including therapeutic hypothermia and novel compounds are being assessed in clinically relevant models of CNS injury.

Diego Alejandro Caicedo-Viekant, PhD

Associate Professor, Medicine
Cellular mechanisms that lead to the highly orchestrated insulin and glucagon secretion by human pancreatic islets.

Nirupa Chaudhari, PhD

Nirupa Chaudhari, PhD

Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

We study how sensory cells function and regenerate by profiling gene expression in different cell types (RNAseq, single-cell RT-PCR, confocal microscopy) to understand how taste buds function, turnover and differentiate. We also image the functional responses of taste bud cells and sensory neurons under normal and metabolically altered conditions.

Akira Chiba, PhD

Professor, Biology

My interest lies in the emergence of intelligence. As a biologist, I use the Drosophila model and employ molecular imaging and genetics to study the basic rules of both protein network and neuronal network formations in the brain.

Kevin Collins, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biology

Our goal is to understand how neural circuits control behavior. We are taking advantage of the optical clarity and powerful genetics of the C. elegans egg-laying behavior circuit to literally watch and manipulate the activity of specific cells. We hope to unravel the molecular mechanisms that modulate neurotransmission during specific animal behavior states.

Gerhard Dahl, MD

Professor, Physiology & Biophysics
Our lab concentrates on ways of intercellular communications through gap junctions and calcium waves. Research in my laboratory is geared towards two goals: 1) Identification of functional domains within the molecular subunits of gap junctions, the connexins. 2) Determination of the physiological function of specific gap junction proteins in tissues.

Julia Dallman, PhD

Assistant Professor, Biology

My research focuses on the genetic basis of swimming by studying zebrafish motility mutants that are useful models for human genetic diseases of nerve and muscle function. The mutant, shocked has a mutated glial glycine transporter; larvae fail to escape when touched when young, but recover a normal escape response as they mature. We hope to understand these mechanisms of glycine receptor down-regulation as they are relevant in people as well.

Kunjan Dave, PhD

Research Assistant Professor, Neurology
Affiliated Member, Neuroscience

Research projects in my lab includes determining mechanisms of cerebral ischemia/stroke-induced brain damage, studying interactions of recurrent hypoglycemia to diabetics and cerebral ischemic damage, and developing novel neuroprotective strategies using models of stroke (ischemic and hemorrhagic).

W. Dalton Dietrich, PhD

Professor, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Cell Biology

I investigate the pathobiology and treatment of CNS injury and repair in both the acute and chronic setting. Animal models of cerebral ischemia, and brain and spinal cord trauma are utilized to investigate the mechanisms of tissue injury and to test novel therapeutic interventions including temperature modification, pharmacological treatment and cell therapies. The ultimate goal is to develop clinically relevant therapies that can be translated to people living with brain and spinal cord injury.

Mohammad Faghihi, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

We study non-protein-coding RNAs and their involvement in neurological and neuropsychological disorders such as: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Fragile X Syndrome.

Lynne Fieber, PhD

Associate Professor, Marine Biology

My laboratory studies comparative physiology of single cells from the nervous systems of fish and invertebrates, emphasizing the role of ion channels in cellular communication. I use voltage clamping to study ion currents in the marine snail Aplsyia Californica, a biomedical model for everything from learned behavior to aging.

James Guest, MD, PhD

Professor, Clinical Neurological Surgery

The Guest lab is a translational spinal cord injury laboratory spanning large animal preclinical experimentation into early Phase human clinical trials of cell therapy and neuroprotection.  Members have simultaneously participated in preclinical experiments and assessment of human clinical trial subjects when suitably qualified. Clearly, this is a unique opportunity.

Abigail Hackam, PhD

Associate Professor, Ophthalmology

We study the cellular mechanism of photoreceptor degeneration, the role of inflammation in photoreceptor survival signaling and neuronal-glial interactions and ocular tumor stem cells.

Shuanglin Hao, PhD

Research Associate Professor
Affiliated Member, Neuroscience

We investigate the neurochemical mechanisms of peripheral nervous system injury and neuropathic pain associated with HIV/AIDS. We also study opioid drug abuse and its interaction with HIV infection and HIV/AIDS neuropathy. We use viral vector-mediated gene therapy for the treatment of chronic pain and drug abuse.

Aaron Heller, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Using brain imaging (e.g., fMRI) and real-world cell phone based experience sampling methods, I study the neural dynamics of emotion in depressed and healthy individuals.

Michael E. Hoffer, MD

Professor, Otolaryngology and Neurological Surgery

Michael E. Hoffer, MD is a Professor of Otolaryngology and Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami who came to Miami after a career in the US Navy. Dr. Hoffer’s primary area of emphasis includes the study of inner ear and brain damage from traumatic insults. His lab performs rapidly translatable studies that involve basic and clinical science.

George Inana, MD, PhD

Professor, Ophthalmology

Our lab investigates the mechanisms of retinal diseases that lead to blindness through the identification of causative genes, construction and use of animal models to elucidate the pathophysiological mechanisms by which specific gene mutations lead to retinal degeneration, and therapeutic manipulation of the animal models for the ultimate goal of developing effective therapies.

Sari Izenwasser, PhD

Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

My research is focused on studying the neurochemical and behavioral consequences of drugs of abuse. Specifically, we study the effects of stimulants (including cocaine, methamphetamine and nicotine), marijuana and opiates in adolescents. In addition, we focus on developing novel treatments for cocaine abuse.

Richard Jope, PhD

Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

We study the neurochemical basis of behavior, especially how altered gene expression and neuronal plasticity affect mood and cognition. We focus on how the immune system interacts with the brain in depression, manic-depression (bipolar disorder), and neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis to understand mechanisms that regulate the activity of signal transduction systems and how these are dysfunctional in psychiatric diseases.

Robert Keane, PhD

Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

My research focuses on the activation of innate immune signaling after CNS injury. We discovered that CNS cells harbor inflammasomes that contribute to inflammatory pathomechanisms. Our current work seeks to understand the physiological functions of these signaling pathways that may provide promising and unique therapeutic strategies to treat CNS injury and disease.

Hans Peter Larsson, PhD

Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

My lab aims to understand the molecular mechanisms that open and close voltage-gated ion channels. Since mutations exist in such channels in patients with diseases such as epilepsy, irregular heart rhythms, and periodic paralyses, understanding the structure and function of channels could lead to treatments for several disorders. We also study how glutamate transporters function.

Jae Lee, PhD

Associate Professor, Neurological Surgery

The primary goal of our laboratory is to understand how glial cells respond to CNS injury in order to promote tissue repair and axon regeneration.

Richard Lee, MD, PhD

Associate Professor, Ophthalmology, Cell Biology

My lab focuses on the molecular, cellular, proteomic, and neurophysiologic basis of glaucoma in experimental and human models. Using cutting edge experimental techniques and technologies, my lab is identifying pathways important for the development of glaucoma and retinal nerve cell death. These molecular pathways represent important new targets for the development of neuroprotective strategies to prevent blindness associated with glaucoma.

Vance Lemmon, PhD

Professor, Neurological Surgery

Our lab studies axon regeneration in vitro and in vivo. A major goal is to identify and characterize genes that enhance axon regeneration using high content screening.

Allan Levi, MD, PhD, FACS

Chief of Neuroscience
Professor, Neurological Surgery, Orthopedics, Rehabilitation

My clinical research interests currently focuses on developing cellular transplantation strategies using Schwann cells)to repair injuries within both the human central and peripheral nervous system as well studying the role systemic hypothermia after acute traumatic cervical SCI.

Wei Li, PhD

Research Associate Professor, Ophthalmology

My research interests focus on two areas of eye diseases: autoimmune uveitis and retinal degeneration. For autoimmune uveitis, we investigate the mechanism of autoimmune uveitis by identifying and characterizing autoantigens directly from patients with non- invasive molecular biology approaches. For retinal degeneration, we investigate the role of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cell phagocytosis in retinal degeneration.

Daniel Liebl, PhD

Professor, Neurological Surgery

Were interested protecting and regenerating the CNS after traumatic injury.  We examine novel mechanisms of cell death, adult neurogenesis, angiogenesis and synaptogenesis using cellular and molecular strategies, cutting-edge imaging techniques, electrophysiological, anatomical and behavioral methodologies, and transgenic mouse models.

Zhongmin Lu, PhD

Associate Professor, Biology

My lab studies sensory neurobiology with a primary focus on comparative studies of the auditory systems of vertebrates. We study the fish auditory system from the ear to the CNS at cellular, systems, and organismal levels using anatomical, neurophysiological, and behavioral approaches. Our directions: 1) Peripheral mechanisms of directional hearing in fish. 2) Neural mechanisms of sound localization by fish. 3) Florida red tides and hearing. 4) Roles of fish otolithic organs in hearing.

Karl Magleby, PhD

Professor and Chair, Physiology and Biophysics

Research interests are: (1) characterizing the types of ion channels in different cells, and determining the mechanisms by which the different channels open and close their pores (gating) and select for the passage of specific ions (selectivity); (2) the mechanisms underlying the short-term changes in transmitter release (short-term synaptic plasticity).

Philip McCabe, PhD

Professor, Psychology

Neural mechanisms underlying emotional behavior; Role of social/emotional behavior in the progression of cardiovascular disease.

Carlos Moraes, PhD

Professor, Neurology

Our lab studies the molecular basis of mitochondrial defects in metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases and in normal aging, using genetically-modified mouse models. Three major funded projects are: 1) Development of genetic therapies for mitochondrial diseases. 2) Development of animal models to study the pathogenesis of mitochondrial disorders. 3) Compensating for a defect in oxidative phosphorylation by increasing mitochondrial biogenesis.

Kenneth Muller, PhD

Kenneth Muller, PhD

Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

How do nerve cells form precise synaptic connections and how do those connections normally function? We study developing circuitry in the retina and brainstem, the repair and functioning of synaptic connections, and control of microglia moving to nerve injuries.

Amanda Myers, PhD

Associate Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences

Our research centers on the function of non-coding DNA variation within the human cortex with specific focus on the pathogenomic processes underlying late onset of Alzheimer.

Brian Noga, PhD

Research Associate Professor, Neurological Surgery

Our long-term goal is to develop new therapeutic strategies for enhancing spinal function based on the delivery of neurotransmitters, similarly acting drugs or transplantation of cells secreting these substances. We are investigating the spinal release of monoamines during walking, and the receptors between monoaminergic fibers and locomotor-activated neurons in the spinal cord. We also examine the therapeutic potential of deep brain stimulation in models of spinal injury.

Michael Norenberg, MD

Professor, Pathology

We study the normal function and properties of glia; neurotransmitter transport in glia; role of glia and steroids in neuroprotection; mechanisms and significance of reactive gliosis; role of glia in various neurological conditions (trauma, aging/Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain edema, liver failure); the role of oxidative stress and the mitochondrial permeability transition in CNS trauma and liver failure.

Ozcan Ozdamar, PhD

Professor, Biomedical Engineering

Exploration of the auditory and visual neural processes using physiological tools.

Kevin K. Park, PhD

Associate Professor, Neurological Surgery

In my current research, I am hoping to better understand the mechanisms governing axon regeneration and also to explore the potential of developing therapeutic strategies for spinal cord injury and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Damien Pearse, PhD

Professor, Neurological Surgery

My laboratory focuses on key aspects of spinal cord injury repair: 1) preventing progressive tissue damage following the initial trauma through pharmacological or biological neuroprotectants, 2) overcoming the physical impediment of the injury cyst through the implantation of exogenous cells or by harnessing endogenous cellular repair mechanisms and, 3) the promotion of axon regeneration by the stimulation of intracellular signaling pathways that are important in the initiation and/or maintenance of axon growth.

Miguel Perez-Pinzon, PhD

Professor, Neurology

A major emphasis is understanding the mechanisms of neuronal cell death with cerebral ischemia following stroke or cardiac arrest. We study the mechanisms of intrinsic ischemic tolerance, in which Protein Kinase C epsilon and SIRT1 (an NAD+-dependent class III histone deacetylase) play key roles in neuroprotection. We also study signaling pathways that promote mitochondrial and synaptic dysfunction following cerebral ischemia.

Vittorio Porciatti, DSc

Professor, Ophthalmology

Our hypothesis is that injured neurons undergo a stage of reversible dysfunction and reorganization before dying. Our goal is to investigate retinal ganglion cell plasticity in human and mouse models of optic nerve diseases.

Sandra Rieger, PhD

Associate Professor, Biology

Following acute tissue injury, the reactive oxygen species H2O2 is released by keratinocytes in the epidermis to promote somatosensory axon regeneration. Intriguingly, keratinocyte-specific H2O2 also causes axon degeneration under conditions of chemotherapy and diabetes. Dr. Rieger’s lab is exploring the dual role of H2O2 as a pro- and anti-regenerative factor in these contexts.

Stephen Roper, PhD

Professor, Physiology & Biophysics

I study the molecular and cellular physiology of sensory organs. Specifically, my research focuses on signal transduction and signal processing in taste buds. I use functional imaging with voltage-, pH-, and ion-sensitive fluorescent dyes, confocal microscopy, and electrophysiology.

Richard Rotundo, PhD

Professor, Cell Biology

Our laboratory focuses on the regulation of neurotransmission via the enzyme, acetyl cholinesterase. We study: 1) The contributions of protein folding and assembly in regulating active molecules at synapses. 2) The development of novel probes for identifying cholinergic synapses. 3) RNA binding proteins that control protein translation at muscle and neuronal synapses in response to specific signals. 4) The repair of neuromuscular and CNS cholinergic synapse following acetylcholinesterase inactivation.

Ralph Sacco, MD, MS, FAHA, FAAN

Professor, Neurology, Public Health Sciences

We specialize in neurological disorders such as stroke and TIA.

Jacqueline Sagen, PhD, MBA

Professor, Neurological Surgery

The aim of my research is novel therapeutic strategies for chronic pain management on a long-term or permanent basis. Gene therapy or cell transplantation can provide a continually renewable source of pain-reducing substances. Recent work has focused on development of novel analgesic peptides engineered for direct delivery or via cellular transplantation.

Mario Saporta, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., FAAN.

Assistant Professor of Neurology and Human Genetics Neuromuscular Division  

Michael Schmale, PhD

Professor, Marine Biology
My research interests are in marine animal models of disease processes, with an emphasis on cancer. Ongoing research includes: 1) a unique virus-like agent which causes peripheral nervous systems and pigment cell tumors in bicolor damselfish on Florida reefs, 2) vector design and optimization of transgenesis in zebrafish, 3) the effect of toxins from agal blooms using zebrafish and 4) health and husbandry of California sea hares, Aplysia californica, used in neurobiological research.

Ramin Shiekhattar, PhD

Professor, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

My laboratory has made a number of important contributions over the past several years in identifying and characterizing critical mediators of epigenome. These include a number of chromatin remodeling (human NURF, CERF, WCRF/ACF) and chromatin modifying UTX/MLL3/4, JARID1d, LSD1-CoREST complexes. Importantly, the emerging roles for non-coding RNAs in epigenetic regulation and their crosstalk with chromatin regulatory complexes persuaded us to characterize the key players in the biogenesis and effector function of non-coding RNAs.

Vladlen Slepak, PhD

Professor, Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology

Our lab is investigating novel mechanisms in G protein signal transduction. We work on receptors in the eye, neuronal and pancreatic cells. We focus on cellular and molecular level studies, but our research is relevant to hormonal regulation of obesity, diabetes and ocular disorders.

Pantelis Tsoulfas, PhD

Associate Professor, Neurological Surgery

Our research focuses on development of the nervous system, neurotrophin signaling, and repair of the CNS after spinal cord injury. Using live fluorescent imaging techniques, we examine how mitogenic factors influence cell numbers and how cell fates are linked to specific transcriptional networks, We also are exploring spinal cord injury repair strategies utilize neurotrophins and grafting of CNS-derived cells.

Lucina Uddin, PhD

Associate Professor, Psychology

I am interested broadly in the relationship between brain connectivity and cognition in typical and atypical development. My current projects focus on understanding dynamic network interactions underlying social information processing in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.

Jeffery Vance, MD, PhD

Director, Center for Genomic Education & Outreach
Professor, Human Genetics, Neurology

Our primary areas of expertize lie in the neurogenetics (especially in Parkinson’s disease and Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease), cardiovascular genetics, human genotyping and banking of DNA samples, and the molecular aspects of the positional cloning of human disease. My research has focused in the application of clinical, molecular, and mathematical genetic techniques to identify genes leading to human disease.

Claes Wahlestedt, MD, PhD

Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

We study the role of the noncoding RNAs in schizophrenia, the role of microRNA in the mechanisms of drug dependency, regulatory RNA’s as mediators and biomarkers in Alzheimer’s Disease, the discovery and development of nociception receptor ligands in alcohol dependence, noncoding RNAsepigenomic modulators in Alzheimer’s Disease, the discovery of a potent and selective neuropeptide YY2 receptor antagonist probes, and comprehensive analysis of FRM1 locus transcriptional landscape.

Gaofeng Wang, PhD

Associate Professor, Human Genetics

Dr. Wang is a molecular geneticist. His research focuses on redox genomics, a new research field that is developed in the Wang lab. Currently, his research projects include the epigenomic regulation of ascorbate in diabetic peripheral neuropathy and diabetic dementia.

Eva Widerström-Noga, PhD

Research Associate Professor, Neurological Surgery

To facilitate the translation of basic research findings and development of tailored treatments, my research is focused on identifying clinical correlates to mechanisms underlying pain after neurological injury. This research is interdisciplinary, involving in-depth assessments of pain, psychosocial impact, neurological dysfunction, and biomarkers.

Juan Young, PhD

Assistant Professor, Human Genetics

We focus on epigenetic mechanisms regulating CNS function; mouse models of neurological diseases.

Zane Zeier, PhD

Assistant Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

I study neurological diseases caused by repeat expansion mutations, primarily Fragile X syndrome and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). I use cellular reprogramming technology to create induced pluripotent stem cells and subsequently neurons and cerebral brain organoids. The model systems are used to investigate molecular mechanisms of disease and also for drug discovery.

Stephan Züchner, MD, PhD

Chair and Professor, Human Genetics
Professor, Neurology

Next-generation sequencing has transformed the genetics field. We use clinical, bioinformatics, and molecular approaches to study the outcome of large scale exome and whole genome sequencing projects in pursuit of identifying and understanding the function of novel disease genes for neuromuscular and neurodegenerative disorders.